I was googling blogs written by other Service animals today, and ran across a blog that was up-in-arms about the exploitation of Assistance Dogs.
I am here to tell you-I am not being exploited!
Being a Service Dog has given my life meaning. I am one of those dogs who hates being left out of the loop (mom calls me "nosy" and "annoying"), and hates to be left behind. Having a job where I get to go everywhere with my partner is the best job ever! Now I'm not sure certain breeds would enjoy it, but being an Aussie...I love to go-go-go. I can't imagine sitting home all day waiting for my owner's return. B-oring!
Now being a Service Dog is not for everydog, I know that. My mom works as a volunteer trainer with Fidos For Freedom, raising and training dogs to become Service or Hearing Dogs. We have a lot of dogs coming in and out of the program...some make it, some don't. A dog that is not enjoying the work will find a new home, and a new job-even if that job is being a good house dog. No dog is forced to work, that wouldn't be happy or healthy for the dog. I had a foster brother for a while, a big standard poodle named Hogan (pic on the left). He was going to be a Service Dog too. But while he enjoyed working on his skills at home, he was severely unhappy when he had to go out in public. He got taken out of the program, and is a house-dog for a wonderful family...who just adores him! We keep the dogs that mentally and physically want to do this job...otherwise it won't be helpful to the human partner. What person wants a dog that is unwilling or reluctant to work?
Just like pet dogs, there are going to be some people who don't treat their Service Dog as well as I think they should. I am a pampered pooch, I can tell you that. I have every luxury known to dogs...of course I have to share some things with my siblings, but that's okay. Dog beds in every room; good quality food (and lots of fabulous treats); fresh, filtered in my bowl everyday; a warm (stylish) coat for cold months...that's just the tip of the iceberg. My human partner, John, watches everything I do...which is usually pretty easy for him because I'm always right there (if he's watching TV, I'm right there on the couch with him)...and knows if something isn't right. Sure, in Fidos, AD program, we don't allow the puppies to climb on the furniture unless asked...but once they get matched with a human partner, all bets are off! And I know plenty of people who don't allow their pet dogs on the furniture. It's not a basic doggy right to have free range of the house. My mom says it's a privilege, not a right.
Before I go...mom says I should also comment on the moving dogs around part of the AD programs. Our puppies come in to our organization at a young age (from rescues or breeders). They get placed with a Puppy Raiser locally or in our Prison Puppy Program-there they learn all of their basic skills/manners. They stay with these people from 6-12 months before moving on to another Raiser or to a Trainer. Once with a Trainer, they learn specialized skills for their type of work...hearing alerts, balancing and retrieving for Hearing Dogs and retrieving, tugging, balancing for Service Dogs. Then once fully trained, they get matched with a human partner. They will live and bond with this partner for years...until too old to work any longer. Most of our humans keep us around and make us pets. Sometimes they are placed in another home if we have trouble with the new upstart (replacement dog). I have never seen a dog not be able to bond quickly with their new person. Remember...these are not dogs with emotional baggage (mom adopts dogs like this...so we know what we're talking about here). These are hand-picked, temperament tested dogs that are chosen for their good-nature, adaptability and mental stability.
Most people would not refer to me as "Exploited"...most people call me "Spoiled". That's okay, I know that I'm needed.
9 hours ago